This post has been updated with additional information from the U.K. MoD and a statement from F-35 builder Lockheed Martin.
A U.K. F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter operating from Royal Navy carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) crashed in the Mediterranean on Wednesday, the U.K. Ministry of Defense announced.
“A British F-35 pilot from HMS Queen Elizabeth ejected during routine flying operations in the Mediterranean this morning,” reads a statement from the MoD.
“The pilot has been safely returned to the ship and an investigation has begun, so it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”
The crash occurred at about 10 a.m. London time and no other ships or aircraft were involved, an MoD spokesperson told USNI News. As of Wednesday morning, other type models of U.K. F-35s were still flying without restrictions, the spokesperson said.
Queen Elizabeth deployed with a blended air wing that includes the “Wake Island Avengers” of U.S. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 and the Royal Air Force’s 617 Squadron “The Dambusters.” The MoD would not identify the service branch of the pilot of the crashed F-35. RAF and Royal Navy pilots fly the U.K. F-35s.
The carrier strike group is on its final leg of its inaugural deployment after departing the U.K. for its deployment on May 22 with eight RAF F-35Bs and 10 Marine F-35Bs.
To date, the U.K. has received 21 F-35Bs that will make up the core of the carrier air wings of the Royal Navy’s two new carriers.
The crash is the third loss of an F-35B over the history of the program. Last year, a Marine F-35B collided and crashed with a KC-130 during an aerial refueling over California. In 2018, a faulty fuel line resulted in the crash of an F-35B near Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C. The 2018 incident resulted in an international standdown of all variants of the F-35 while investigators determined the cause.
In a Wednesday statement to USNI News, JSF builder Lockheed Martin is, “standing by to support the Ministry of Defence as needed. An investigation is underway and further information on the incident will be released when appropriate.”